Tesla’s Solar Facility is Part of Hawaii’s Goal For Energy Independence (HBO)


— It is time to exit the Paris Accord. — Less than a week after President Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement, at least 10 state governors and the mayors of more than 200 American cities had recommitted to the climate accord’s emission standards. But Hawaii was way ahead of the curve— the state passed a law enforcing even stricter clean energy standards back in 2015. And they did it to save money. — Life in Hawaii looks pretty good. You know that, everybody knows that. But there’s a challenge to living on an island in the middle of the Pacific— it’s expensive, and nothing is more expensive than energy. 90% of Hawaiian energy comes from fossil fuels, and 100% of that needs to be imported. An average Hawaiian family can pay up to $600 a month in energy bills. So Hawaii’s governor has set a goal: to power the island completely with renewable energy by 2045. — How big of an issue is it for the average Hawaiian, the high price of energy? — The cost of living in Hawaii is a challenge.

Electricity costs in Hawaii are twice the mainland average. We have been the most oil-dependent state in the country— it costs 5- to $6-billion a year to import that. And, really, that’s money out of our community’s pocket. — Getting off oil by 2045 will take wind turbines, volcanic energy, bio-mass recycling, and ocean energy. But Hawaii’s biggest power source will be solar. — How realistic is the 2045 goal? — I’m 100-percent confident that we’re going to make it. We already know that we have the technology today to generate more than we need. You know, the challenge is really about, how do you capture it and deliver it to the customer when they want to use it? — A sunny day in Hawaii is so sunny, the electrical grid can’t handle all the solar power that’s captured— so the state’s opening giant battery fields. — This is the Tesla solar plant with battery storage. There’s about 55,000 panels. It’s the largest dispatchable battery system in the world. What’s really great about this is the energy goes into the batteries so, when our peak load hits, about eight o’clock at night, this project will be providing energy for about 20% of the island.

— What do you think of the move from people doing it individually on their own homes, to now sort-of industrial-sized? — On Kauai, about 12% of our members have solar on their roofs, but the price of these big massive facilities is about half the cost of putting it on a roof. — Do you worry about relying so much on a Silicon Valley startup? — Yeah, in fact we do. That’s one of the reasons why the next project we’re doing is not going to be with Tesla. We’re trying to not be so tied to one provider or one technology. It’s a risk management. — Yeah. — Meanwhile, Tesla is building the world’s largest battery factory. — The amazing thing about these projects is that they’re actually cheaper than the alternative. — Why isn’t all of California run on battery power? — There is a lot of existing investment in big utilities and, you know, that is one of the challenges with changing things quickly is that, you know, people have made large investments that need to be recovered for many, many years. — Investments in oil and coal and fracking? — Existing generation, the existing infrastructure to support all that. — Is Hawaii kind-of a case study, or was it just that the governor is receptive? — Hawaii is a great example of having an abundance of solar power, and also having fairly dirty existing electricity generation, so we can come in and economically substitute out these oil burning generators with solar power.

— If this governor’s plan is successful, Hawaii will become that much closer to paradise. — We do see the impacts of global warming and sea level rise. And we understand that what happens elsewhere around the world has a tremendous impact on us here in Hawaii. We believe that a future based on clean energy would certainly be brighter than one built on fossil fuel..